Translation Fellows

Each year, the Yiddish Book Center Translation Fellowship selects a group of emerging translators who are versed in Yiddish language and culture.

2023 Translation Fellows:

Annabel Gottfried Cohen is a third-year PhD student in modern Jewish history at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, where she is focusing on the interwar Jewish antifascist left. She has a research master’s in history with distinction from the University of London, for which she was also awarded Best Overall Performance at the master’s level and Best Dissertation for her dissertation on the origins of the International Brigades. Alongside her PhD research, Annabel researches and translates materials relating to Jewish women’s religiosity in Eastern Europe, publishing her work on her blog, Pulling at Threads. Her translations have appeared in In geveb and in the recent anthology Strange Fire: Jewish Voices from the Pandemic (Ben Yehuda Press, 2021).

Annabel will be translating A lebnsveg and Lender felker kamfn, the two-volume autobiography of Gina Medem, a Bundist-turned-Communist activist and forgotten celebrity of the Jewish left. Wife of the famed Bundist leader Vladimir Medem, Gina was also a celebrated journalist and political speaker who traveled the world and witnessed firsthand some of the most important moments in modern Jewish history.

Tamara T. Helfer is a former research astronomer, science educator, and program developer with broad interests in the intersection of history, genealogy, and storytelling. She is a multiple-year alumna of YIVO’s Uriel Weinreich Summer Program in Yiddish Language, Literature, and Culture and has also been studying Yiddish year-round with YIVO since 2020. Tamara will be translating Di kinderyorn (My Childhood Years), by Rokhl Feygenberg (1885–1972), a prolific and well-known literary prose writer and journalist who wrote this autobiographical bildungsroman before she was 20. Di kinderyorn is Feygenberg’s reckoning with her own difficult early years, which were framed by the deaths of both parents, while it also paints an evocative picture of 19th-century Belarussian shtetl life from the perspective of a young girl.

Kathryn Hellerstein is a professor of Germanic languages and literatures, specializing in Yiddish, and the Ruth Meltzer Director of the Jewish Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania. Her books include In New York: A Selection, a translation and study of Moyshe-Leyb Halpern’s poems (Jewish Publication Society, 1982); Paper Bridges: Selected Poems of Kadya Molodowsky (Wayne State University Press, 1999); and Jewish American Literature: A Norton Anthology, of which she is co-editor (W. W. Norton, 2001). Hellerstein’s translations, poems, and many scholarly articles on Yiddish and Jewish American literature have appeared in several journals and anthologies, including American Yiddish Poetry: A Bilingual Anthology (University of California Press, 1986), to which she was a major contributor. For the 2023-24 fellowship, Hellerstein will be translating poetry by Yiddish women writers.

Daniel Kraft is a writer, translator, and educator living in Richmond, Virginia. He holds a master’s degree in Jewish studies from Harvard Divinity School, and his essays, poems, and translations from Hebrew and Yiddish appear in a number of publications, including the Kenyon Review, Jewish Currents, Poetry Ireland Review, Slate, and Image. He shares translations of Yiddish poetry through his newsletter at, and more information can be found at his website, Daniel will be translating the work of Itshe Slutsky (1912–1944), a poet and essayist born in Lakhva, Belarus, who published one book before dying while fighting in a partisan unit near Minsk.

Jacqueline Krass is a writer and PhD student in English at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where she is writing a dissertation about Yiddish and ethnicity in postwar Jewish American poetry. Her writing appears in Philip Roth Studies, Textual Practice, The Millions, Spoon River Poetry Review, and elsewhere. She will be translating Afn shvel fun yener velt (1947), a wry, moving memoir about tuberculosis and the postwar Jewish condition from poet, journalist, and writer Daniel Charney.

Judy Nisenholt is a product of a Yiddish day school, the I. L. Peretz Folk Shul in Winnipeg, Canada. Building on this foundation, she has participated in Yiddish reading groups and undertook the translation of a handwritten memoir of some 300 pages. Her translations have been published in The Exile Book of Yiddish Women Writers, Jewish, and Cribside and Other Stories: The 2022 Pakn Treger Digital Translation Issue. She is currently co-editing a collection of essays and fiction by Yiddish author Lili Berger. She is translating Nisht farendikte bletlekh (Unfinished Pages), by Lili Berger. It centers on the notable Bundist, Yiddishist, pedagogue, and Communist functionary Esther Frumkin, who was swept up in the Stalinist purges around 1937 and perished in the gulag. Berger employs the conceit of a cache of writing retrieved from the labor camp and uses Frumkin’s voice to provide an account that is both a self reckoning and a depiction of the worst excesses of totalitarianism.

Michael Shapiro has followed many stars, including street beggar, taxi driver, furniture mover, piano tuner, mathematician, and bioinformatician. He came to Yiddish later in life, attracted to the ferocious poetry and radical theater of the Lower East Side. He’s now enjoying learning the stories his parents never told him. He is translating Moyshe-Leyb Halpern’s poetic cycle Zarkhi by the Seashore—poems that are deep, mysterious, dark, surprising, and sometimes hilarious.

Rachel Wamsley is an independent scholar based in Jerusalem. She received her doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2015, where she specialized in literary adaptations of the Hebrew Bible in early modern Yiddish. Her current work fuses poetics and the study of the material text in the exploration of literary creativity in early modern Ashkenaz. She has held postdoctoral fellowships at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Harvard University and has served as Sassoon Visiting Fellow at the Bodleian Library’s Centre for the Study of the Book. She is also a senior fellow in the Society for Critical Bibliography at the Rare Book School at the University of Virginia. Her essays have appeared in Lias, Journal of Early Modern Intellectual Culture and its Sources, and Studies in American Jewish Literature, as well as the edited volumes The Worlds of Old Yiddish Literature (Legenda 2018) and Printing and Misprinting (Oxford 2023). Her project is a verse translation of the early Yiddish biblical epic Shmuel Bukh (1544).

A. C. Weaver is a set carpenter, playwright, director, actor, Yiddish puppet parade organizer, and fiction writer based in Northampton, MA. Weaver’s short stories and translations have appeared in Paper Brigade, In geveb, Metamorphosis Journal, Pakn Treger, and 365Tomorrows. Weaver cofounded the new play collective Theater Between Addresses and was a 2020 finalist in dramatic writing for Mass Cultural Council. For the fellowship, Weaver will translate Sholem Asch’s three-act tragedy Shabbtai Tzvi and adapt it for immersive outdoor theatrical production.

David Zakalik, a native of Buffalo, NY, has been immersed in Jewish and Yiddish culture his whole life, beginning with a Jewish day-school education. David’s love for and knowledge of Yiddish music and language deepened during his years leading Cornell University’s klezmer ensemble, which he left with a sizable repertoire of Yiddish jazz standards. In 2019, when he found out about two Yiddish-language authors in his family, David began a more systematic study of Yiddish under translator David Forman while in grad school. A Yiddishist by night and a horticulturist by day, David will soon be joining the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service in Washington, DC. David will be translating a trilogy of autobiographical novels written by a distant relative, journalist Duvid Tsudek Zakalik, recounting the author’s escape from Nazi-occupied Warsaw to Soviet-occupied Bialystok, his imprisonment in the gulag, his amnesty as a former Polish citizen, his wanderings through Soviet central Asia, and his return to liberated Lublin in 1944.

"What can I say? I felt encouraged, spurred on, supported and part of a community of wonderful, brilliant people."
A former translation fellow